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The Barcelona of Whit Stillman

Saturday, 19 August, 2017

The 1994 film Barcelona by Whit Stillman deals with the romantic and political adventures of two American cousins in Catalonia during what the director described as “the last decade of the Cold War”. The energy left over from the post-Franco revolution is being diverted into hostility to the US and it’s onto this dangerous stage that Fred (Chris Eigeman), a Navy officer on assignment from the visiting American fleet, strolls.

For the local intellectuals and wannabe terrorists, the supremely self-confident Fred is a symbol of all that’s wrong with “America Abroad”. He deflects their attacks, though, with fast talking and glib wit. Along the way, he entertains and infuriates his cousin Ted (Taylor Nichols), who works for a US corporation in Barcelona, and the two of them fall in love with the enormously attractive local women.

The clash between the Old World and the New World Order is played out on many levels in Barcelona. Ted dreams of big business and quotes management guru Peter Drucker, while Fred wants the infantile Marxists to get a life. The two characters resent the paranoid view of America that Europeans indulge in, but they also make use of the American stereotypes when circumstances dictate.

Whitman has an excellent feel for dialogue and in a film that is both hilariously funny and painfully accurate.

Ted: “I was trying to convince them to look at Americans in a new way and in one stupid move you confirmed their worst assumptions.”
Fred: “I did not confirm their worst assumptions…I am their worst assumption.”

Mira: “You can’t say Americans are not more violent than other people?”
Fred: “No?”
Mira: “All those people killed in shootings in America?”
Fred: “Oh, shootings, yes. But that doesn’t mean Americans are more violent than other people. We’re just better shots.”

On this day of mourning in Barcelona, it’s important to remember that the city has always provided a panorama for those who have sought to view themselves and the world through its magical lens.


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